What do you say?

>> Sunday, December 21, 2008

The following are real conversations that I have been part of since I started this blog...

  • Woman 1: I've been looking on Craigslist for a bike for my son's birthday.
  • Woman 2: Why are you looking on Craigslist? You can get a brand new bike from Walmart for $40.
  • Woman 3: Because it was built by some little ten-year-old in Guatemala.
  • Woman 2: Well, yeah, but that's not our fault. We're only pawns in the system.
  • Woman 1 and Woman 3: Yeah, you're right.

  • Man 1: Did you hear Bob's trying to sell his Prius?
  • Man 2: What would you need a Prius for right now with gas prices at $1.50?

  • Woman: How's your green blog going?
  • Me: It's going great.
  • Woman: I could never go green.

  • My sister: You know, Erin, sometimes it's just better not to know.

I never know what to say in these situations. What I really want to say is, "No, no, no! You don't have to be a pawn in the system and just because gas prices are lower doesn't mean climate change has gone away and how can you not go green and it's better to know about things so you can change them!"

But except for my sister, the other comments were made by people I don't know well, and I don't want to offend them or be pegged as "that weird lady with all those weird opinions."

Or the other reaction I get from people when I start talking about environmentalism or social responsibility is that their eyes glaze over and I can tell they're not really listening. I don't think I'm that boring - it's just that most people don't want to hear it.

I've had this dilemma ever since I became a vegetarian. I've found that when people ask, "Why are you a vegetarian?", they don't want to hear the real answer. I even had a friend in college who became antagonistic about my vegetarianism once I explained about factory farms, and it led to the erosion of our friendship.

After enough negative responses, I started replying, "I decided that with all of our modern conveniences, it wasn't necessary to kill animals to eat." This answer satisfies most people without riling them up and potentially spoiling the evening, but it also has never ever made anyone consider going vegetarian.

I guess I've always been of the "lead by example" opinion, but I'm starting to think maybe that's not enough. You can't force people to change, but how do you convince them to want to?


Maren Hansen December 21, 2008 at 6:17 PM  

Erin, you bring up a point so close to home. People often ask why we (though I haven't been for years) are vegetarian and yes, they get so MAD when we say we don't think it's necessary to kill animals to eat healthily. We now say something similar--that it's not necessary to eat meat (or much meat in my case) and be nutritious. Would you believe that we haven't even told my parents we're veggie? I'm afraid that they will cut off contact, literally. Sad, huh? After much thought, Derek & I believe that many people are convicted by their own consciences and hence the projected antagonism. I also have found that the more confidence (not aggression or ego) that I project when talking about it, the more likely people are to actually consider the idea and not categorize it as "Democratic" or "Tree-hugger"... :) I'd love to hear more on this too...

Rjs January 8, 2009 at 10:31 AM  

I don't think you can force anyone to change. I think you have to lead by example and with anything they have to make the decision to change.

We had this same discussion at a Dave Ramsey class last week. One guy was talking about how his sister could use it but he doesn't know how to bring it up. You offer a suggestion, but you don't beat a person over the head with it. People believe that they are right and they naturally "toss out" any thoughts or arguments that don't mesh with their belief system or experiences. Make sense?

I think whether it's money, eating veggie, or being green, you have to lead by example, dropping little bits of education along the way.

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